Hawaii’s Ka’iwi Channel Swim

Kaiwi Doug McConnell swims Channel swim photo

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Doug McConnell swims Kaiwi Channel swim photo

Swimming the “Channel of Bones”

In July 2016, A Long Swim dedicated themselves to swim Hawaii’s Ka’iwi Channel between the islands of Molokai and Oahu. Most of us refer to it as the Molokai Channel, but in native Hawaiian, it is called the Ka’iwi Channel (pronounced “kah-EE-vee”) and translates to the “Channel of Bones.” All in the name of ALS research.

The swim itself was 32+ miles and started on the west end of the almost deserted Island of Molokai. Because the Hawaiian Islands are really the tops of an underwater mountain range, the water is quite deep (2,300 feet) and there is no protection from other land masses; this swim is really in the open-ocean. As a result, the Channel is known for swells of up to 15 feet. Steady trade winds blow through the Islands, so the swells are usually topped with choppy waves. The water temperature will be considerably more accommodating than it has been for our other swims, and is expected to be in the 75 – 78 range. The channel is also full of wildlife, from jellyfish to stingrays to sharks.

With those challenges, perhaps it is no surprise that the Ka’iwi Channel has only been successfully swum by 35 solo swimmers. That’s one of the reasons that it is not as well-known (or as well-publicized) as, say, the English Channel, which has been successfully completed by some 1,300 swimmers. To keep it all in perspective, about 5,000 mountaineers have summited Mt. Everest.

Every marathon swim is different; having folks with local knowledge is critically important to a successful team, and nowhere is that more apparent than on the Ka’iwi Channel swim. A Long Swim used the very experienced help of Hawaii Channel swimming icon Linda Kaiser as well as champion boat pilot Matt Buchman.

Raising funds for ALS research

As with our other marathon swims, one of the big motivations behind A Long Swim is the ability to raise contributions for ALS research, and it even took its name from the ALS acronym. To date, A Long Swim has raised more than $400,000 for ALS research, which makes it one of the top open water swims for charity in history. It is a very rewarding time to be funding ALS research, as the pace of discovery is accelerating all the time.

Since our last big swim, the circumnavigation of Manhattan Island in New York City in 2014, A Long Swim was granted status by the IRS as a 501(c)3 charity. To celebrate, we even changed the address of our website, to www.ALongSwim.org. The motivation for that was simple; if A Long Swim has taught us nothing else, it is that teamwork is indispensable for achieving our goals. Finding a cure for ALS works the same way, and teamwork and collaborative research will lead to one breakthrough after another. President Truman’s words, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit,” can apply to most situations, with marathon swimming and ALS research just being among them. Given our absolute dedication to teamwork, funds raised by A Long Swim will be directed to collaborative ALS research.

A Long Swim is a close partner with the Les Turner ALS Foundation, which will continue. The Foundation keeps very close contact with ALS researchers at Northwestern University in Chicago, as well as with ALS research being completed around the world. A Long Swim will coordinate with the Foundation to assure that the effect of every ALS research dollar is maximized.

Donations to A Long Swim are welcome, and can be made online, or by mail to:

A Long Swim
110 East Main Street
Barrington, Illinois 60010

Corporate sponsors are encouraged for this and other highly publicized swims.

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